When I was in college, (university for those of you outside the states), I took a class called Interpersonal Communication Theory. It was about relationships. It was a hugely popular class held in one of those massive 500 person auditoriums. If you weren’t in class at least 15 minutes early you wouldn’t have a seat. And you’d have to really settle in. If you had to leave in the middle of class you’d have to fight through packed rows and aisles because people just stopped in to listen to the professor during breaks between other classes. One of the lessons I remember so clearly was called, “Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder; absence makes the heart wander.”
In the middle of our holiday in the states, that’s exactly how I was feeling. My absence from the United States has not made my heart grow fonder. It’s made my heart wander and wonder why in the world we live in this concrete jungle called Houston.
It’s bloody hot and humid. There are people EVERYWHERE and it takes about 14x longer to do anything than it really should. You start sweating less than a full minute after you walk outside and just generally live in a state of dampness. On top of all of that, there’s just a constant underlying feeling of fear.
When having dinner with a friend and our kids, Brooks said he had to go to the toilet. I told him to go ahead. My friend looked at me and said, “Oh, are we doing that now?” I’d forgotten that you have to be so aware of your kids’ safety that you have to worry about their trip to the loo in a family friendly restaurant. Not to mention that there were two mass shootings in the 29 days I was home. Two. There has been an insane rise in the amount of bulletproof backpacks sold and more talk on the psychological trauma that kids have to go through when you’re teaching them how to be used.
It’s a good time to be living abroad.
Of course, our hearts never wander from our friends and families where we spent nearly every moment of our time. (The rest of the time was spent skipping down the aisles at Target and HEB and knocking things into my cart. Until you’ve lived in a place like Aberdeen for a while, you really just can’t understand how many THINGS are inside those places. You know what I brought back from HEB? Spray ghee! Yes, you read that right. Spray ghee! They don’t even have anything like Pam here.) I had to get off the phone with my mom while trying to shop at Whole Foods because there were just so many things to look at and read and decide upon.
The first couple days were spent at Mimi and Papa’s house swimming with cousins while I freaked out about my fair skinned babies, who hadn’t faced the Texas sun/heat in a year, either winding up with a wicked sunburn or heat stroke.
The next couple days were spent at the Rockin’ M Ranch where the kids alternated between between getting covered in the red Texas dirt and jumping on the fresh white bed linens while I continued to worry about my Scottish babes collapsing from heat stroke.
What ranch visit is complete without a bon fire and a few sparkers?
After the ranch, it was back to Mimi and Papa’s for a few days.
Next up, Matagorda!
The next day started with kayaking and ended with me forcing my kids to participate in my creative photography desires.
And the next day, in true Matagorda tradition, there was a big ole party on the beach that ended with us getting extracted by my Uncle Robert when Mia started to loose her shit. For a long time she was perfectly happy sitting on a cooler and eating ice. However, when the ice started to melt, so did her attitude. Brooks, on the other hand, my little social butterfly, was in heaven with so many other kids to play with.
Sadly, this was the end of Brett’s holiday. One of the perks of living in the UK is that you go on holiday, not vacation. Vacation means that you’re still tethered to your smart phone. It means you’re still checking in and answering emails. God forbid that you be unaccessible. In the UK, going on holiday means clocking out. It means actually taking a break. It means being totally present with your family for kayaking and bogie boarding and ranch life. It means a real break.
After dropping Brett at the airport for his glorious, child-free flight back to Aberdeen (where he was upgraded for free – why does this never happen to me!?!?!?!?), I took my best friend back to Matagorda where I forced her into taking maternity pics so that I could practice taking sunset pics with non-child models. A few turned out well but I really screwed up on many. I’ve always heard about underexposing so that you could get the colors in the sunset but I WAY underexposed resulting in images where it was hard to bring back the color in her face. We did luck out with an amazing sunset though.
Then, because I’m crazy, I drove back to Houston, spent the night and returned the next day with my two little terrorists for a few more days of fun and sun at the beach.
Then it was on to Victoria from some sweet cousin time with Penny complete with dress up and tea parties!
The next day brought a very hot trip to the REAL zoo (after visiting the Houston zoo, on the walk to the car, Brooks asked when we were going to go to the REAL zoo…after several questions we figured out he was talking about the Victoria zoo. lol), and the Victoria Children’s Museum with Grandpa.
Then came a trip to the splash pad. Mia’s gone to them before…I think… but certainly not within her realm of memory. She thought it was the best thing ever! And of course Brooks does too but he always has. It was a perfect day for it – made even more perfect by ice cold watermelon!
That afternoon we had a quick visit with Yaya and Papa Ed. Read: Lauren and I booked it out of the house and around to all the open shops in Vic while we were child free! The kids and I headed back to Houston that afternoon. Thank goodness for iPads and in car entertainment systems!
A few months back, Mia had a bit of reaction to eating scrambled eggs. Since Brooks has a severe egg allergy, I decided to take her in to to be tested. Turns out there are quite a few things that she showed a reaction to! Turns out our little angel has an egg, tree nut and corn allergy in addition to mold. Good thing we are well versed in avoiding eggs and nuts. Corn is a new one for us though!
My days get a little hazy here… there were lots of dinners with friends, swimming and shopping. Full days of things that didn’t get photographed but only because everything about them felt so normal – so much like our regular/old life that I either didn’t bring my camera or forgot to pull it out because I was actually living in the moment instead of behind the lens.
There are a couple exceptions of course…
We were able to squeeze in one last trip to the beach with the Hawes clan and cousin Liz to celebrate mine and Brooks’ birthdays. The water celebrated our reunion by turning blue and green in away that muddy waters of the Gulf of Mexico just don’t do. We had a fabulous time splashing in the clear water and watching the cousins have a great time together.
Then came the lasts of things. The last beach trip, the last pool swim with the cousins.
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for… the journey home solo with two children.
The night prior, Dog was announced missing. Who is Dog? This ugly little specimen.
We looked everywhere in the house. No Dog to be found. Obviously this results in tears from Mia and general hysterics. We figured it would turn up in the morning but no such luck.
Well, things started off FINE! Thanks to my frequent flying this year, I have priority check in status with KLM and THANK GOODNESS. When we arrived at the airport, two bus loads of students had just gotten in line to check in. I cannot imagine what would have happened if we would have had to wait in that line. Mind you, I’m not flying fancy in business/first class. Just several trips to continental Europe slumming it in economy with my knees shoved into my chest.
We got through security with very little incident and made it to our gate. Waiting in an open area – not in line – for them to call the preboarding peeps, Brooks and Mia are playing around. He decides that he’s going to sit in her stroller because she’s walking around waving to people. She sees him and gets territorial and comes at him with hands raised. He tries to get out of the stroller and trips over the wheel – going head first onto the ground. He had his super heavy backpack on full of safe-for-him-foods for the flight and the poor little guy wasn’t even able to break his fall with his hands.
He screams in such distress that he turned the head of every. single. person waiting in line. At first glance his nose looks crooked but the blood is RUSHING out of his nose so I don’t have time to think on that further. I grabbed the first absorbent thing in my purse – Mia’s diaper – and held it up to his nose as he screams about the blood AND about the fact that I’m using a diaper. Some kind soul rushed over to me with tissues and a caring pat on the back.
We make it on the plane and everything is good for a bit.
Mia starts being her restless, annoying, almost-three-year-old-self that’s ultimately because she’s tired. I know where this is headed so I brought out my new travel item. A little blow up rectangle thing that is suppose reach the height of the seat that allows a toddler to stretch out like a full bed.
It worked like a charm! Even though she was really ticked with me that I hadn’t found Dog – nor did I pack one of her blankies in the carry on luggage. Sigh. She did get some good sleep using that thing though. I do not plan on going on any lengthy flights with them any time soon but I will definitely bring it the next time we do. For friends that are planning to come see us with kids in tow this year, only $15 USD on Amazon. Worth every cent!
Our flight took off 40 minutes late from Houston which really cut into our 55 minute layover at the Amsterdam airport. After waiting for the stroller to be deposited at the gate, our flight had already taken off. We were rebooked on one two hours later and both of the kids were troopers as we waited – first playing in the Nemo Children’s Science Center and then zoning out on tablets.
When we stepped onto the tarmac in Aberdeen, we stepped into 55F weather accompanied by generous drizzle. It was amazing. My favorite part of flying into Aberdeen is the cool, clean air the second you step off the plane.
The kids were beyond thrilled to see Brett and neither complained when he put them both down for a nap immediately following a fast lunch upon our arrival home.
It is so good to be home.